There are many myths, misconceptions and questions surrounding a plant-based, or vegetarian, diet. People who choose a vegetarian lifestyle are often seen as tree-hugging, eco-warriors, bent on removing meat from the tables of every person in the nation. A plant-based diet is actually a very healthy option, and those that choose to follow a vegetarian lifestyle do so for a variety of reasons, none of which are to aggressively convert the masses.
In order to dispel some of the many myths about a plant-based diet, let’s look at a few of the more common questions that people have:
Do vegetarians get enough protein?
People who follow a nutritionally sound, plant-based diet receive an adequate amount of protein. People who do not follow a nutritionally sound diet do not; and the same can be said for meat-eaters. As with any diet, it’s important to pay attention to what you are putting in to your body.
Foods like tofu, legumes, pulses, beans, nuts and meat-alternatives, provide more than enough protein for those people who have opted to remove meat from their diet. Also, every serving of vegetables provides at least 1 g of protein which can really add up!
I’ve read that too much soy is bad; is this true?
The truth about soy is this: there have not been enough studies to conclusively prove that too much soy is good or bad. The concern with soy is that the plant contains a high concentration of phytoestrogen; a molecule similar to human estrogen. High levels of estrogen levels in the body have been linked to breast cancer, among other diseases. There is currently no scientific proof that plant-based estrogen is linked to increased risk of any disease.
That said, many doctors and nutritionists advise people to avoid too much soy. The question then becomes: what is too much? Having a serving of a soy product with a meal is not excessive. For instance, having a tofu scramble for breakfast or a glass of soy milk with your lunch isn’t generally considered harmful. Comprising every single meal throughout the day of soy products would be considered too much.
Do vegetarians need supplements to stay healthy?
To say that vegetarians, specifically, need supplements to stay healthy would be incorrect. To say that anyone who does not eat a nutritionally sound diet would benefit from supplementation would be more in line with current research. Because, more often than not, people who switch to a vegetarian diet do not do so with enough research into their new diet, it is generally recommended that certain supplements be taken. These are:
Vitamin B12: nutritional yeast is one of the easiest ways to get an adequate amount of B vitamins. Nutritional yeast flakes can be mixed with mashed potatoes, added to dishes or even sprinkled over popcorn. There are also B12 supplements that are made from plant sources available at most grocers, sublingual products are best.
Calcium: while calcium can be obtained from certain foods, many still do not receive enough calcium in their diets. Supplements like Calsense are vegan-friendly and provide the daily recommended allowance of calcium in easy to take powder form.
What diseases can a plant-based diet help me avoid?
There are a number of diseases that can be prevented, or kept under control, by following a plant-based diet. These include: diabetes, cancer, coronary disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and a variety of allergies. Following a plant-based diet isn’t a cure-all, but it is definitely beneficial for those looking to stave off illness.
Many vegetarians, who were previously meat eaters, also report feeling more energetic on a daily basis. Vegetarians report better, more relaxing sleep, improved joint mobility and an overall feeling of well-being when comparing themselves to their meat-eating past selves.
If you are considering a vegetarian or vegan diet, and still have questions, we suggest that you research a plant-based lifestyle before making the switch. As with any diet, it is important that you understand your nutritional needs and create a menu that will help you best meet those needs.
About the Author
Tyler Nelson is a personal trainer and blogs for supplement-deals.co.uk a sports nutrition site where you can find great deals on sports supplements.